Mayor’s Message: Joint Land Use Board meetings

In this week’s Mayor’s Message, Mayor Louis Manzo discusses the approval process that takes place for prospective businesses.

After a recent Joint Land Use Board (JLUB) meeting, an attending resident approached me concerning the public hearing held that night. They considered a couple questions from residents a bit adversarial and felt our board handled the hearing well. I responded by saying “thank you” and I believe these meetings are the place for residents to express their opinions on pending projects, even if they get a little heated from time to time. That expression is their right as taxpayers.

The truth is that we all live our busy lives and never attend township meetings until something comes up that directly affects that way of life. The most common trigger is a building project (like an office building, retail store or housing project) close in proximity to our home. Agreed?

So how do projects like that happen? Do the mayor and the township seek out these projects? Who approves these projects and do the residents have anything to say about it? I’ll preface an explanation by saying that my personal choice (if it were up to me as a resident?) would be not to build anything else here; no new houses and only certain desired commercial uses like some additional restaurants, but we cannot control that.

Growth or development of a town is triggered when a private landowner decides to sell their property to a developer for a price. Once that happens, it falls to our JLUB to ensure the proposed project meets the zoning code and the aesthetic standards we have set for our community and to protect those neighbors most impacted by the project.

The members of our JLUB (like all township boards/commissions) are residents of our community, just like you, who volunteer their time to attend two meetings a month. The architectural plans, required traffic and environmental studies submitted for each application can be six inches thick so each member may spend considerable prep time before each meeting.

The approval process is very detailed and dictated by state laws, so consistency and fairness are guaranteed. These resident members have the technical support of an attorney, engineer and planner at these meetings, but only the resident members have the authority to vote. So, ultimately, the approvals are granted by your fellow residents, who follow the required laws in doing so. Hence, the voice of the community is heard at these public hearings and through the board members, who are residents themselves.

As your mayor, I have sat on the JLUB for the last 11 years. Obviously, the board members have changed over the years, but we consistently have a dedicated group that takes great pride in this important role. It’s impossible for most residents to understand the approval process I’ve touched on, but you should know that we all consider ourselves an extension of you and the community sitting in those meetings. I am so very proud of all the residents we have appointed to the various boards and commissions in town. If you’d like to participate, you can volunteer on the “township administration” tab of our website at www.HarrisonTwp.US.